Entire of Itself?

Towards an Environmental History of Islands

Milica Prokić and Pavla Šimková (eds)

Place-centric island histories

The study of islands is booming. Small wonder: islands have played a key role in the history of continents, have been crucial locales of state-making, have served dictatorships as sites of prison systems and have acted as frontiers and stepping stones of empires. However, the role that island environments have played in creating and shaping these histories has so far received little attention. To understand why an island became a penal colony, an atomic test site or a tourist destination we need to take a close look at its environmental peculiarities: its physical shape, its geology, its climate, its flora and fauna, and its position vis-à-vis other places. And to more deeply comprehend an island’s place in history we must consider the changing ways in which it was perceived, used, valued or dismissed, protected or mistreated over time.

Through fourteen stories of islands and archipelagos from around the globe Entire of Itself? Towards an Environmental History of Islands showcases islands as dynamic entities that both shape history and are shaped by it. Covering time periods from antiquity to the present day, Entire of Itself? attempts a group portrait of this exceptional category of places in the context of environmental history. Exploring the intertwined temporal, material and identity layers of island environments, and their transformations in response to human endeavours of conservation, exploitation and experimentation, the contributions in this volume challenge the traditional center-periphery perspective, and instead take an island-centred approach, delving into both the islands’ own stories and their role in larger historical developments.

The Islands: see where they are on a world map.

This book is Open Access through the support of the Open Book Collective.


Pavla Šimková is an environmental historian based at the Collegium Carolinum in Munich, Germany. She has held positions at both the Collegium Carolinum and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at LMU Munich where she received her doctorate in 2019. Her research interests include East Central European and American environmental history as well as urban history. She is currently one of the editors of the journal WerkstattGeschichte. Her first book, Urban Archipelago: An Environmental History of the Boston Harbor Islands, was published in 2021.

Milica Prokić is an environmental historian and knowledge exchange scholar. The focus of her historical research is the interrelationships between landscapes, bodies, politics and power. She obtained her Ph.D. in history from the University of Bristol in 2017 with a thesis on Goli Otok (Barren Island).  She has held fellowships at the European University Institute, the Rachel Carson Center (LMU Munich), and the Kunsthistorisches Institut Max Planck. Milica currently works at the One Ocean Hub (University of Strathclyde), and has previously worked at the School of Humanities, University of Glasgow. She also holds degrees from the Faculty of Visual Arts (University of the Arts, Belgrade) and Central Saint Martins College (University of the Arts, London).

Publication date, 15 March 2024; 310 pp.
ISBN 978-1-912186-84-6 (HB) £70
ISBN 978-1-912186-83-9 (PB) £32
eISBN 978-1-912186-82-2 (Open Access ebook)